Just before the end of 2019, Tim had begun meeting with *Matthew, a young man from an oppressed Shia community who had fled his home in Afghanistan after suffering tragic loss. He had recently become a believer in his new home in south east Asia.
A couple of months in, Tim had linked Matthew with other international believers and was meeting whenever possible for food and fellowship. Travel times across the city and busy jobs meant this was not as frequent as Tim would have liked, and Matthew was finding it difficult to establish a rhythm of daily Bible reading and prayer by himself.
In March the country entered lockdown and Tim wondered how Matthew was going to manage in isolation. It wasn’t long before Matthew lost his job. He was suddenly bored and had time on his hands, so Tim found that COVID-19 actually offered them an unexpected opportunity for discipleship.
Smartphones are a lifeline for those displaced from family, home and community. They provide information and education, a connection to loved ones far away and entertainment to while away the tedious empty time. Tim and Matthew began using their smartphones for daily video calls to study the Bible and pray together.
“We begin with catching up on our daily news, then we turn to the Bible and read together,” Tim explained. “Matthew reads the passage in his own language out loud, then explains what it says to me in English. This helps him think about what he’s reading and gives me a chance to see if he has understood it. I ask a few questions, or comment on it. Then we take it in turns to pray, Matthew in his language or me in English.”
At the time of writing, Tim and Matthew have been able to meet almost every day for 96 days, finishing Matthew’s Gospel and the whole of Acts. This has given Matthew a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and what church life should look like. It has helped him develop a daily habit of reading the Bible and praying. There will still be many challenges ahead for him, waiting for a permanent relocation and looking for the opportunities for witness and service God will provide, but Tim feels hopeful that far from being a wasted season in Matthew’s life, the lockdown has helped Matthew to put foundations in his Christian life which he can build on wherever God sends him next.
“Personally, I have rejoiced again in God’s sovereignty in this. He is not fazed by COVID-19 or lockdown; he can turn even this to good,” Tim says. “God can use even violence and civil war; it has brought millions like Matthew into contact with Christians through fleeing from war. We need to use every opportunity to help the thousands coming to faith each year to find their new family in Christ.”
*Name changed to protect identities.